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					          International Journal of Wireless & Mobile Networks (IJWMN) Vol. 4, No. 3, June 2012


     REVIEW ON THE SECURITY RELATED
     ISSUES IN CONTEXT AWARE SYSTEM

                Saad Almutairi1, Hamza Aldabbas1 and Ala Abu-Samaha2
      1
          De Montfort University, Software Technology Research Laboratory (STRL)
                                 Leicester, United Kingdom
                                  {Almutairi,hamza}@dmu.ac.uk
                            2
                                Middle East University, Amman, Jordon
                                       asamaha@meu.edu.jo



ABSTRACT
A context aware system is recognized as a “system which uses any context information previous to, or in
the duration of, service stipulations”, whereas the main goal of this system is to track and identify the
users. The mobility feature of most computing and personal assistance devices have made the ‘context of
the user’ an important aspect of the system, affecting its development process in terms of end-user
requirements and system behaviour. Context Aware Systems are different from traditional systems as
they provide unique features such as heterogeneity, high complexity and artificial intelligence. Since the
parameters that constitute a context aware system, such as location and time of the day are rapidly
changing. The use and importance of this system is increasing and therefore becoming a major part in
prospective wireless systems. However, beside the numerous advantages, context-aware systems have
also come up with the numerous issues and challenges related to privacy and security of the user’s
information in these systems. Therefore, this paper is mainly aimed at a review of the security and
privacy issues related with context-aware systems. It also gives a brief introduction regarding the
preferred and suitable frameworks required to implement the security requirements. It further focuses on
the main question for most researchers about the frameworks used for context-aware systems.


KEYWORDS
Context, context-aware systems, security requirements, frameworks in context-aware systems.



1. INTRODUCTION
“The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave them selves into the
fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it" [30]. This statement is quoted
from Mark Weiser's visionary article `The Computer for the Twenty-First Century'. This article
was published in 1991 and it was considered as a head of its time, Mark Weiser’s vision has
given birth to a new field in computing namely pervasive computing (aka ubiquitous
computing) which is also guided to explore the vital concept of context awareness. Context
awareness is the initial element of pervasive computing. Since the first introduced by Schilit
and Theimer [31], the term 'context aware system' attracted many researches, for example, Dey
and Abowd [1] defined Context as any information which is used in characterising the current
condition of any object or entity. In a real time scenario, numerous examples related to the
context are given such as location, time, temperature, noise, the bandwidth of communication,
connectivity of network etc [2]. In a much broader perspective, a context is being termed as
“some information which can be utilized to identify the present condition of any entity”.
Moreover, Dey and Abowd have further talked about the definition on the basis on which a
DOI : 10.5121/ijwmn.2012.4313                                                                        195
       International Journal of Wireless & Mobile Networks (IJWMN) Vol. 4, No. 3, June 2012
system can be considered as a context aware system. According to the definition, “A system is
considered to be context aware if it utilizes the context in an effort to provide the appropriate
information or service to the user where appropriate and significant information depends upon
the requirement and need of the user” [1]. Sitou and Spenfelner pointed out that context aware
application “seem to be particularly prone to problems related toa discrepancy between user
expectation and system behaviour” [25]. In almost the same manner, a context aware system is
recognized as a “system which uses any context information previous to, or in the duration of,
service stipulations, whereas the main goal of this system is to track and identify the users” [3].
Context Aware Systems are different from traditional systems as they provide unique features
such as heterogeneity, high complexity and artificial intelligence. Since the parameters that
constitute a context aware system, such as location and time of the day are rapidly changing
[32]. Thus the use and importance of context aware system is increasing and therefore
becoming a major part in prospective wireless systems. It is being highlighted as important and
quite useful due to several reasons such as context can reduce the input cost, it can provide an
exciting user experiences without much effort on the user`s part and also users can benefit
through context sharing [4,34].
This paper is organized into five sections. In section 2, we will have some discussion about
background history along with some related works which have been done in the past by various
researchers. Section 3 will review the security issues which related to context aware systems.
Section 4 will present some frameworks which have been proposed in the literature review, and
finally Section 5 will summarize our conclusion.

2. BACKGROUND AND CONTEXT AWARE APPLICATIONS
Various researchers have highlighted and discussed the basic concept of context and context
aware systems in their own way. Most of them are not quite in favour of the most basic concept
and have tried to come forward with their own definition in a more precise manner. For
instance, Schilit et al. [5] have mentioned three points which are required to be considered
when discussing a context. Firstly, at what location you are, with whom you are roaming
around and what kind of various resources you are utilizing. Furthermore, Chen et al.[6] has
termed context as a collective combination of environmental states and settings that judges the
behaviour of an application or which are important from the user’s perspective. Moreover,
Deyet al.[7] has defined context as information that is used to determine the situation of any
entity such as a person, place. These entities are further considered to be very useful for
establishing an efficient interaction between the users and any application.
There are many applications which can be considered as context aware or having greater
context aware applications to be used. These applications were used in the recent past and many
examples can be quoted from the current scenario. According to various researches, many
context aware applications were lab based and provided the designers with the facility to work
in a proper laboratory environment. A typical example of the most initial kind of context aware
application is the Active Badge introduced in the early 90’s [8]. Regarding its working, it made
use of badges in order to transfer infrared signals to various sensors located in numerous
buildings. This case helped to track the user’s location and therefore automatically redirect the
user’s call to that exact tracked location. Another example of context aware application is
ParcTab which also serves and provides the user with the same kind of functionality as
provided by Active Badge. However this application performs this procedure by making use of
much simpler badges [9]. Furthermore, it was also implemented in a form of a PDA (Personal
Digital Assistant) in order to introduce much richer context aware applications.
There are many others quite efficient and effective context aware applications which are mobile
based and therefore provide some potential facilities and functionalities for the users. These

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mobile applications come up with various user friendly services such as displaying the relevant
information to the user, automatically performing any functionality or providing a service to the
user, etc [10].As mentioned above, tourist information systems are a kind of application which
makes some major use of context aware softwares nowadays. The major example in this regard
is Cyber Guide, a mobile based context aware system used by visitors. It provides the users
with information on various places and locations which could be of interest to users by making
efficient use of the history of the places visited by users and the direction of movement, etc
[11]. Another example in this regard is a GUIDE system which serves as a tour guiding system
for the visitors in a city of Lancaster [12]. Moreover, Mobile Location-Aware Handheld Event
is another tour guiding system which acts as an event planner and therefore serves as a tour
guiding system for the visitor by making GPS location acquisition [13]. Furthermore, Access
Sights also acts as a tour guide system and therefore serves people with special needs, like blind
users or weak sighted users, with a tour guiding facility [14].

3. REQUIREMENTS & DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS
Before embarking into the discussion especially on some potential security issues regarding the
context aware applications, a brief insight will be thrown on to the basic categories of context
as a whole. Most of the studies have come forward with various categories of context.
However, the majority have agreed collectively upon three - four as the major ones. For
instance, in research conducted by Chen and Kotz [14], four basic categories of context have
been mentioned. These are: Computing Context, User Context, Physical Context and Time
Context. A brief description about the information and areas covered by each is given below
[37]:

    •   Computing context: covers areas and information related to system connectivity, inter
        networking, other computing related assets like printers and workstations, CPU,
        Memory resources etc [14]. Another important aspect and characteristic of context
        aware applications in terms of computing context is that users sometimes use multiple
        devices. Therefore they prefer the devices which provide the facility of performing
        multiple functionalities at the same time [15]. These kinds of devices cover mobile
        applications and PDAs etc.
    •   User context: contains information related to the user’s application usage which
        includes the user’s personal information, preferences, current location, and potential
        activity, etc [14]. The choice of users can be characterised by the details related to the
        kind of preferences they have [16]. For instance, some users are willing to go to any
        specified location by taxi or hiring private transport whereas some other users are
        willing to travel walking distance only [16]. Therefore, for this reason, a component or
        facility for storage and efficiently using preference related information is required.
    •   Physical context: covers areas and provides information regarding Location, Time,
        Destinations, lighting, Physical and environmental conditions, etc [14]. For instance, in
        most cases the users require access to information such as weather forecasts, route
        directions, ongoing traffic situations and temperature related updates, etc [16].
        Therefore the requirement is always kind of useful information which is going to be
        updated on a regular basis and should always be made available to the users.
    •   Time context: provides information and access about the time and calendar related
        information on a daily, weekly or monthly basis [14].




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3.1. PRIVACY ISSUES IN CONTEXT AWARE
Privacy concern which related to current context aware systems is a very challenging issue, and
is being considered as quite an important and a hot topic to be discussed. However, it has been
discussed and mentioned by the researchers that there are many factors which play quite a
major role in raising some considerable privacy concerns and potential security issues in the
mind of the user who is utilising and accessing the context aware based applications. These
factors can be further classified into two categories; small scale and large scale. Small scale
factors directly affect the personal, private and sensitive information of the users and therefore
users are directly affected by these factors. On the other hand, large factors are the total
opposite of the small ones and therefore make much less impact directly to the private or
sensitive data of a user.
Furthermore, a brief highlight will be thrown onto some various potential factors that raise
some potential privacy concerns among the users of context aware system applications [17].
    •   Information Receiver reliability: One of the factors which raises some privacy concerns
        among the users of context aware system applications is the reliability and authenticity
        of the receiver who receives the user’s information. Users sometimes have an
        ambiguity or doubt on the credibility of the person who receives and uses their
        information. Therefore, the only option left for the user is to show some trust and
        confidence on the credibility and authenticity of the receiver’s information.
    •   Possible usage of user’s information: Another factor mentioned by some researchers
        which raises privacy concerns among the user is the kind of usage which is going to be
        made related to their private and sensitive data at the receiver’s end.The concerns arise
        when the users think or become doubtful about the proper or positive usage of their
        sensitive information.
    •   Level of sensitivity in terms of users data: According to studies, some times the level or
        extent of sensitivity and privacy of user’s data also raises a concern in the user’s mind
        whether to share or transmit this kind of data or not . The user thinks twice whether it
        will be secure and good enough to make the private and sensitive data available and
        accessible to a third party or not.
    •   Environment in which user’s information is shared or its privacy is being disclosed:
        This is a factor which raises concern in the user’s mind whether they should be sharing
        and giving access to their information in various contexts and environments. The users
        are sometimes reluctant to share their information in any context or environment due to
        the concerns about the reliability and authenticity of the context. Moreover, a change or
        any update in the context also triggers some serious privacy concerns among the users
        and therefore prevents them further in sharing their sensitive and highly secure
        information in that very context.

3.2. SECURITY REQUIREMENTS FOR CONTEXT AWARE SYSTEMS
   Many researchers have come up with, and collectively agreed upon, some common steps to
be undertaken in an effort to implement the most efficient and effective level of computer
security and applications working in a context aware system environment. The main purpose is
to ensure that the level of risk is also going to be reduced by implementing these security steps.
These requirements will be discussed to consider the security steps required to be undertaken in
order to provide reliable security to context aware systems and applications. The following are
the security requirements which been specified briefly below by International
Telecommunications Union (ITU-T) represented in their recommendation X.805 and X.800
[17, 18, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29].

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•   Authentication: Authentication is basically a process of verifying the identity of the
    entity which is accessing the facilities of context based systems and applications.
    Authentication is essential to verify the identity of every node in the system and its
    eligibility to access the network. This means that, nodes in the Context aware systems
    are required to verify the identities of the communicated entities in the network, to
    make sure that these nodes are communicating with the correct entity, in order to make
    sure that the user who is trying to access the context aware system is reliable or eligible
    to access the system. This will help to validate the user’s identity and will assist in
    ensuring that only the authorized user can access the system. A need of mutual
    authentication is justified in the case of security infrastructure to validate the user’s
    identity. Furthermore, it has been said that in order to validate and run the
    authentication process, it is not always required that the user or device should be
    connected to the application identity. This could be done by authentication of users in
    terms of their context e.g., nicknames in IRC chat rooms.
•   Access Control: This step in the security requirement is defined as a process of giving
    permission or access to the authentic and real users to utilise the system facilities. At
    the same time, its other purpose is to restrict access to the system utilities against fake
    or unauthorized users. In addition, users should be capable of restricting each other
    from accessing their private information. There are many techniques that can be used
    for access control such as Discretionary Access Control (DAC), Mandatory Access
    Control (MAC) and Role Based Access Control (RBAC) [25].This requirement is
    actually executed to verify or to validate the related privileges with each user. If the
    verified or reliable user matches and fulfills the required privileges then the access or
    authority to use the system resources will be granted to the user. Otherwise the request
    for accessing the resources will be rejected due to the failure of providing the relevant
    permission information [33, 36].
•   Privacy and confidentiality: This requirement is basically related to protect or restrict
    the use of some highly sensitive, private or secure information or data from being
    shared or being made available to anyone else without your permission or willingness
    to do so. Each node in the context aware system has to secure both the information that
    is exchanged between each other; and secure the location information and the data
    stored on these nodes. Privacy means preventing the identity and the location of the
    nodes from being disclosed to any other entities. While confidentiality means keeping
    the secrecy of the exchanged data from being revealed to those who have not
    permission to access it. According to some previous research, it is considered as being
    someone’s capability to protect or restrict your information from going public to others
    or keeping the sensitive data quite confidential and not disclosing it to unwanted
    entities in some way. However, implementing this concept in context-aware is
    considered a very challenging task. Most of the studies have claimed that, it is highly
    possible that the users who want to access and use the functionalities and facilities of
    context-aware systems quite increasingly would get somehow drawn in sharing the
    contextual information. In order to make sure such users would not be sharing or
    providing access to their private information to other entities, there should be a need to
    apply some methods to make the information confidential from unwanted users.
•   Data Integrity: The data transmitted between users in the context aware systems
    should be received to the intended entities without been tampered with or changed by
    unauthorized modification. This requirement is essential especially in military, banking
    and aircraft control systems, where data modification would cause potential damage.
    Previous studies have showed that the integrity of the user’s data can be acquired by
    providing assurance that the data is not going to be accessed and therefore altered or

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       modified by the fake, illegal or invalid users. The integrity requirement in context-
       aware systems is defined as a concept in which the access to the user’s resources is not
       allocated or assigned to any illegal or incorrect user. Moreover, this will create a
       serious problem in tracking the illegal and unauthorized users accessing and modifying
       the user’s context in an illegal manner.
   •   Availability and survivability: The services and applications in the system should be
       accessible, when needed, even in the presence of faults or malicious attack such as
       denial-of service attack (DoS). While survivability means the capability of the network
       to restore its normal services under such these conditions. These two requirements
       should be supported in any context aware system. Availability in this kind of systems is
       related with the concept of making sure that the services, facilities and functionalities
       required by the users are made available or accessible to them. This requirement is
       considered as important in the case of wireless systems where there is a total lack or
       unavailability of required services and functionalities by the user. This availability
       issue could be quite serious in many other critical applications as well.

4. RELATED FRAMWORKS IN CONTEXT AWARE SYSTEMS
Previous studies have proposed various frameworks for implementing efficient and effective
security on user’s information in the context and the context-aware system as a whole. The
main purpose of implementing these frameworks is to gain and acquire various security related
requirements and models which mentioned before. However, each framework has come up with
its own purpose of implementing and serving with a unique kind of security requirements and
models. For this reason, each separate framework has got its own importance and is therefore
definitely required to be implemented and fulfilled. The following are brief details about
various frameworks which been used to implement various security requirements along with
the kind of unique purpose they fulfil and which are therefore being used in the context-aware
systems.
   •   Confab Framework: As discussed before, users should be able to apply some privacy,
       confidentiality and therefore protect their private or personal information from the
       illegal access of unauthorized users. Therefore, in an effort to fulfil this security
       requirement. Jason et al. [19] came forward with an architecture called Confab in order
       to provide privacy to the users for the protection of their sensitive information. Talking
       specifically regarding its purpose and workings, Confab framework is basically
       designed for providing protection and reliable security to the information relevant to
       the user’s location in ubiquitous systems. Moreover, its working hierarchy is based on
       some specific analysis related to basis privacy requirements of end-users and the
       application developers [20]. The private information of the user is acquired, stored and
       therefore processed on the user’s device instead of taking and storing it on some other
       device for security purposes.
   •   Uniform Access Control (UAC): Covington et al. [21] came up with a uniform access
       control framework specifically for serving the purpose of environmental roles.
       Moreover, it has been declared and claimed as a further extension to the Role-Based
       Access Control (RBAC) model. Regarding the RBAC model, specific privileges or
       access rights to the users towards the system services are linked with the environmental
       roles. Talking specifically about the concept behind the roles, a role can be a developer
       or a manager in a top level domain. Moreover, it is responsible for analysing and
       determining the security aspects related to Context-aware systems and applications in
       ubiquitous environments [22, 36].



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•   General Role Based Access Control (GRBAC): Furthermore, these environment
    roles are based on another framework called the General Role Based Access Control.
    Ahamad et al.[22] have highlighted a main difference between RBAC and GRBAC
    models. Generally RBAC framework is a basic model which only covers and relates
    towards subject-oriented approach whereas GRBAC allows the defining of access
    control policy depending upon not only the subject but also on other essential and
    important factors like object or environment.
•   Gaia: It is designed to assist the building of smart space applications [5,35], such as
    smart homes and meeting rooms. It consists of a set of core services and a framework
    for building distributed context-aware applications. Gaia’s event manager service
    enables applications to be developed as loosely coupled components, and can provide
    basic fault tolerance by allowing failed event producers to be automatically replaced.
    Gaia’s remaining four services support various forms of context-awareness, and include
    the following :
        •    Context service: This allows applications to find providers for the context
             information they require.
        •    Presence service: This monitors the entities entering and leaving a smart space
             (including people as well as hardware and software components).
        •    Space repository: This maintains descriptions of hardware and software
             components.
        •    Context file system: This associates files with relevant context information
             and dynamically constructs virtual directory hierarchies according to the
             current context [23].
    According to Roman et al. [24] defined generic context-based software architecture for
    physical spaces, such as Gaia. Moreover, they defined physical space as a “geographic
    region with limited and well defined boundaries, containing physical objects,
    heterogeneous networked devices, and users performing a range of activities”. Based
    and depending upon this very physical space, active space providers assist the users of
    context-aware systems and application to directly connect and therefore interact with
    the physical space. Again, this framework is being used to cover and acquire the step in
    the security requirement which is called the access control. Its main purpose is
    therefore giving permission or access to the authentic and real users to utilize the
    system facilities.
•   Cerberus & Kerberos: Other frameworks like Cerberus & Kerberos are basically used
    for achieving the purpose of fulfilling and implementing various security requirements
    in the context-aware systems and applications such as identification, authentication and
    access control. Cerberus, however, is a framework for which the centre of attention
    concentrates on verification and validation of the identity of the user who is requesting
    access to services and facilities of context-aware systems. This validation and
    verification can be done by making use of information and data related with the user’s
    context which includes fingerprint, voice and face recognition etc [24].




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                 FRAMEWORKS              COMPATIBLE SECURITY
                                         REQUIREMENTS
                 Confab                  Authentication
                 Uniform Access          Access Control
                 Control (UAC):
                 General Role            Access Control
                 Based Access
                 Control
                 (GRBAC):
                 Gaia                    Authentication , Access Control
                 Cerberus                Authentication , Access Control,
                                         Privacy
                 Kerberos                Authentication , Access Control,
                                         Privacy
            Table 1: Inter relationship between frameworks and security models


5. CONCLUSION
From the current study, we have come to understand the detailed concept of not only the
context and context-aware systems them selves but also some constructive awareness regarding
the privacy and security concerns along with the potential methods and requirements to be
implemented. However, in order to overcome the privacy concerns mentioned by the users of
context-aware systems, there are many essential security requirements raised by previous
researchers recently which are required to be fulfilled and acquired for efficient and effective
security. These are authentication, access control, privacy, availability and integrity of the data
of relevant and authorized users of context-aware systems.

Many frameworks have been proposed and discussed for implementing and acquiring these
security requirements on the user’s context with the required level of efficiency and
effectiveness. The most commonly used and preferred are Confab, Gaia, Cerberus, Kerberos,
Uniform Access Control (UAC), General Role Based Access Control (GRBAC).Regarding a
discussion about the most preferable and suitable one, we can make a conclusion that each of
these have their own importance and therefore they are serving and providing assistance in
fulfilling the security requirements individually in a much more efficient and effective manner.
However, Kerberos along with Cerberos framework is highly preferable compared to the others
as they concentrate on verification and validation of the identity of the user who is requesting
access of services and facilities of context-aware systems. This validation and verification can
be done by making use of information and data related with the user’s context, which includes
fingerprint, voice and face recognition, etc. Moreover, RBAC framework is a basic model
which only covers and relates towards a subject-oriented approach whereas GRBAC allows
defining an access control policy depending upon not only the subject but also on other
essential and important factors like object or environment. Some further work needs to be done
in order to overcome the core issues and challenges which faced by the context based security
professionals and to come up with a more suitable and reliable framework. The issues and
challenges are discussed briefly in the current study and there is still a need to give them serious
thought in future potential research projects and high level studies linked with the
implementation of Security and Privacy in Context Aware Systems.



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Description: Review on the Security Related Issues in Context Aware System